Owen C. Smithers had a natural talent for photography. He got his first Kodak camera in 1908 at the age of 15, and throughout his lifetime he never stopped taking photos. It was rumored that Smithers had a collection of over 50,000 images by the time he died. Unfortunately, an arson fire and two floods caused a large portion of the collection to be lost. The remaining images were recovered and stored in the Smithers house until it was decided to sell the collection.
The Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives was instrumental in the recovery of the remaining photographs, and when the 15,000 image collection was put up for sale, they were determined to purchase the collection. With funding from MHF, and others, Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives was able to purchase the entire collection of photographs and negatives.